Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hello Reilly, Ace of Spies

Mrmonkey and I were flicking around the telly stations one afternoon a few weeks ago when we came across an episode of Reilly Ace of Spies on UKTV Drama. I remembered watching this programme when it first came out (although, in that great way of people, I thought it had first been aired a lot longer ago than was actually the case), and mentioned that both I and my mother had been very, very fond of Sam Neill in this show.

Mrmonkey turned out never to have seen it, so we decided to watch it, more for fun than anything else, and because there was nothing else on. Since then, I have to tell you, it's become something of an obsession with us. If you've never seen it, or you don't remember it, I can tell you that it's based on the real life of adventures of Sidney Reilly, a Russian-born secret agent who worked for the British, the Germans, and the Russians during his long career. Although he didn't really do anything you might have heard about, unless you care a lot about British attempts to steal German military secrets before World War I, attempts to secure oil rights, and the abortive attempts to overthrow the Bolsheviks after World War I, his methods are legendary. He was ruthless, cunning, smart, and incredibly attractive and irresistible to women. Moreover, his methods are credited with changing the game of spying from a gentleman's arrangement to an actual scary-ass profession.

The TV show conveys all of this extremely well. Sam Neill is totally convincing as Reilly, and is surrounded by the best and the brightest of British talent at all times during the 11 episodes. The stories are exciting and compelling, and you actually have to pay attention to what's going on. They don't tell you everything ten times to make sure you get it, although there is a handy voice over (kind of important, given that they cover 24 years in 11 hours of telly).

It's interesting, though, that for a hugely successful show, it doesn't seem to get trotted out as an example of the greatness of telly as often as it should. Shame, that.

Now though, as happens when the best telly ends, we're a little bereft. Fortunately Season 5 of the Wire has just started on FX. Hooray!


Ammonite said...

I've never heard of this great series! Perfect winter evening TV. Thanks Mme Monkey.

Andrew Farrell said...

I only just found out that this is written by Troy Kennedy-Martin! Unfortunately I found this out due to a post about the remake of the Sweeney, which he is said to be involved in.